Putting an end to slave labor in Brazil | Natural Language Institute

Putting an end to slave labor in Brazil

Written by Carolina Vilalva | Teacher - 27/may/2016 #Lifestyle


The House of Representatives is about to vote on one of the most important constitutional amendments drafted last year. PEC 438 gives the government the right to confiscate any rural property that uses slave labor. The amendment is essential for the country's slave labor eradication movement. Millions of Brazilians are forced to work in subhuman conditions, robbed of their dignity and freedom, while other few businessmen profit by exploiting this type of labor force and thus committing a crime against human rights as well as tainting Brazil's image internationally.

There are many types of forced labor practices in Brazil. The ILO office in Brazil has decided to use the term “slave labor” instead of “forced labor” and justify it through the following definition: every type of forced labor is degrading, but the reverse is not always true. The variable that makes one concept different from the other is freedom. When we speak of slave labor we refer to a crime that restricts the freedom of workers. This deprivation of liberty is carried out in four ways: retention of documents, the presence of armed supervisors or “gatos” who threaten lives, through debt bondage, or due to the remote geographical location from which escape is not possible.

From 1995 to 2003, 10,726 people were freed by the actions of the mobile inspection group of the Ministry of Labor. In total, 1,011 properties were inspected during 243 operations. Much more than a simple violation of labor laws, these farm owners are committing one of the gravest crimes against human rights.

The National Prosecutions Office is currently pushing 202 criminal suits in the Federal Court against farmers, rural worker recruitment agents, and businessmen accused of maintaining slave labor throughout the country. However, the number of cases, which is higher than the 166 names of violators listed in the slave labor “dirty list” developed by the Ministry of Labor after inspection operations, does not in itself guarantee proper punishment.

All forms of slavery in Brazil have been illegal since May 1888, when the Parliament voted in favor of the abolition of slavery. It was a great watershed in Brazil's history, but the end of the old form of slavery was a gradual and slow process that stretched out until the end of the 19th century. Brazil was the last country in the Americas to end the system of slavery initiated during the colonization period.

Now, exactly 166 years later, the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to promote a second abolition of a new form of slavery in Brazil. The appropriation of the lands in which slave labor is found is not only a just measure; it is a necessary step for terminating the problem of impunity in Brazil. The idea is to make sure that the submission of workers into conditions analogous to slavery is no longer seen as a mere labor infraction. Even though it occurs in the context of the workforce, forced labor violates the most sacred principles of human dignity and liberty. No one in there right mind that would defend slave labor. This country's people should no longer tolerate this disgrace. They must get to know their Representatives better in order to voice their indignation and use their democratic power to vote for change.

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